Improve your home office to increase productivity

Have you ever told yourself “5 more minutes”? Then end up pushing it to the next day? This is procrastination at it’s finest, and you’re here because you want to improve your home office to increase productivity to reduce procrastination.

I know, I know, it’s hard to even get started. Likewise, I’ve been there and done that, but it’s never too late to change your poor habits and overcome procrastination. All you have to do is clear your mind; and when I say “clear your mind”, what I really mean is: clear your workspace (and have a little bit of discipline)! Your mind is a mean-working machine and when you work, your brain overflows into the space you work in. Give yourself a few hours or at most, a day to get your small workspace ready for efficiency and productivity. Let’s start by breaking up with everything we don’t need; you can keep your significant other, cat, dog, or that favorite blanket for this step.

Although not the famous  Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method or The Home Edit (and professional services), we’re outlining the best kept industry non-secret 5S method to increase productivity in our workspaces. Because, why limit the 5S method to businesses when our brains are factories too?

What are the 5 S’s? As the name suggests, there are 5 steps and they are as follows (and you guessed it – they all start with an “S”):

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Now let’s apply these steps to improve productivity!

Sort: Get rid of everything you don’t need and keep everything you do

First and foremost, we need to see the space we are working with, what we already have, and what we do and don’t need. Go ahead and remove everything in and on your desk. Don’t forget to remove 1-day used clothes from that chair in the corner or that pile of who-knows-what on the floor (likely a bunch of empty water bottles).

Try to keep everything in a designated location and/or bin outside of the room when taking the items out of your workspace.

When sorting out your items, a good tip is to keep a few bins or spots for things to:

  • Keep
  • Put into storage
  • Relocate
  • Donate
  • Throw

Things to keep

Making the decision to keep something may be difficult; here are a few questions you should ask yourself before making a decision:

  • Why do I need this?
  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Do I use this often?
  • Can I live without this?
  • Does this belong here?

You’re going to notice that these items usually end up being things that you’re going to be using frequently, if not, put them away in storage or get rid of them.

Things to put into storage

These items you can’t live without, but you don’t use them frequently or they have sentimental value – that’s fine and completely normal. We all have things we can’t let go of, just make sure that its not EVERYTHING.

For example, you have a stack of 5-year-old class notes, books, course packs, past exams and others that you kept for your younger siblings (maybe to save money or help them out?) – get rid of them. Most teachers improve their course outline, use newer editions of books, change their exams and its not likely whoever you’re saving these items for, are going to use them. They are a waste of space and it’s time to put them into the recycling bin.

However, things to keep in storage should be items that you still use, but way less frequently. These items can include, a foldable stationary bike, extra office supplies, paper cutting machines, large office tools and others. Have the small items in labelled storage boxes on shelves while larger items are stored in the closet or storage containers neatly placed on the floor.

Things to relocate

If you’re keeping an item or storing it away, there is one more question you should ask yourself:

  • Does this item belong here?

If your answer is no…It’s time to relocate that week-old cereal bowl to the kitchen (shoes to the foyer, kid toys to the playroom)!

Things to donate

These items you can live without and you don’t need them; but are they in reasonable shape to donate? If yes, go ahead and donate them to the lucky new owner! If not, it’s time to toss them into the trash and never look back.

Things to throw/recycle

These items can’t be used by anyone else nor would anyone take them for free (yes, no one wants your 10s and 100s of empty water bottles).

Before we officially throw these items out, we have to reverse the questions and ask ourselves:

  • Can I donate this?
  • Can I place this somewhere else in my home?
  • Do I need or use this item?
  • Do I need and use this item frequently?

Answered no to all? Get the dump truck and throw these items out responsibly.

Purging a room and sorting out the items before placing them back will not only be the first step in creating an inviting workspace, but it can also be seen as clearing and decluttering the mind.

At this point, you can move your furniture around to optimize your space, or even remove what you don’t need (don’t remove the desk – key component to your office if you haven’t figured that one out yet).


  • Clean the floors and furniture before you move onto the next step, maybe even air our the room
  • If possible, have the desk facing the window – it will allow for lots of natural light and prevent lighting issues like when you’re in a videocall

Set in order: Putting things where they belong

At this point we have what we have and we see the space we have to work with. It’s time to put everything you’re keeping back into their new homes.

Here are some pointers:

  • Organize your items so that their new homes makes sense; don’t have the book you use all the time where your printer paper is
  • Items you use most frequent should be close to you
  • Loose items such as extra pens, pencils, paper clips, extra staples and elastic bands should be placed in designated baskets, bins
  • Have folders with labels for paper documents and stored in a filing cabinet, shelf or drawer
  • Drawers should have dividers
  • If you have a printer, keep printing supplies (i.e. paper, ink) close to the printer
  • Label storage dividers, containers, baskets and others (this will make it easy for other people to find things in your office)
  • Try and keep your desk surface top as empty as possible, if not, have items in holders to keep them neatly stored on the desk
  • Utilize your wall space if your room is small (don’t be afraid of installing shelves or a shelving unit)
  • Get opaque storage boxes and containers to make the room look more neat, however, clear containers are easier to look into without opening – but that’s why labelling is a must

Once you have things where they should be, these are their permanent homes! This will improve your home office to increase productivity.

Shine: Clean and decorate your office

In the industry, the 5S’s “shine” step is the implementation of cleaning protocols and 100%, you’ll need to implement some cleaning protocols to your room

Here are some cleaning “rules” you can implement:

  • At the end of the day, tidy up your desk
  • After using an item, place them back where they belong (make it a habit)
  • On a weekly basis, vacuum your floors and any rugs, wipe down your table tops, dust the shelves and clean any mirrors, computer screens and windows
  • You should also get into the habit of disinfecting your keyboard and mouse daily
  • Dust your plants on a weekly basis (and don’t forget to feed them!!)

But remember, you’ll be in this room for long hours, make sure you’re comfortable and enjoying your set-up. In addition to keeping your work area clean, tidy, open, organized, don’t forget to add some sparkle to your workspace.

Here are a few tips on decorating your workspace:

  • Buy scented candles, diffusers, essential oils for your office
  • Get a small plant for your desk
  • Get a floor plant for your office
  • Add a rug to keep your feet warm and protect your floors from the chair
  • Get a wall calendar
  • Motivational quote wall décor
  • Wall painting with bright colors or neutral (switch them up sometimes)
  • If space allowing, have a little nook with an accent chair, throw and side table for you to sit, whine down, read a book and maybe have a quick power nap (that is 30 mins, not 2 hrs)
  • Get good lighting to keep you focused

Standardize: Stick to your schedule (but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t)

Having an organized room is great and you should feel great about it now. But the 5S method only works if you stick to your organization, cleaning methods and schedules. Standardization can also be part of your work/school/personal-life by keeping a schedule to ensure you’re meeting deadlines and not missing any important classes/meetings.

A few tips:

  • Have a wall calendar (it’ll be hard to miss what you need to get done)
  • Keep only one agenda and keep like-notes together (not in multiple notebooks or stray paper – will get messy)
  • Color coordinate when applicable (pen color, font color, colored tabs)
  • Set up reminders on your phone/computer/laptop
  • Use Google, Microsoft Office and others as tools to keep you organize (learn how to use them!)
  • At the end of the day, look through you agenda as a refresher to keep you on top of your workload

Although having a physically tidy room and filled in agenda/calendar may motivate you, it isn’t your sole motivator. Keep yourself motivated by keeping mentally and physically healthy; take breaks, get fresh air, turn off your phone sometimes, don’t miss any meals, drink plenty of water, exercise and spend some quality time with your friends and family.

Sustain: Maintain and continuously improve your home office to increase productivity

Lastly, ensure you sustain your progress by maintaining the steps you’ve implemented. When you repeat these steps and find that something is not working for you, make the improvement(s) where needed.

Being productive is multifactored, it is not limited to discipline or how organize and clean your workspace is, it is about your will and desire to achieve your goals. Keep motivated! You’re here because you want to improve your home office to increase productivity and that is a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction.

Read through this and feel like it doesn’t really relate to you? You feel as if you work better in a mess? Well, you’re not alone! In academia, productivity is partially measured by the number of publications published; in a study comparing 4 levels of office tidiness (1- very tidy and 4- unkept), it actually showed that in both “extreme” cases, these were the people that were significantly productive. With that in mind, if you’re one of those that functions well in a mess, by all means – do you!

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